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Toshiba e800 review
Posted on 22-Jan-2004 19:34 by M Freitas. | Tags Filed under: Reviews.

Toshiba e800 review
The Toshiba e800 is the first handheld computer running Windows Mobile Pocket PC OS that supports a large 4" TFT LCD screen in comparison with a more standard 3.5" screen. It also supports VGA resolution (480 x 640 pixels), when the current standard is QVGA resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. To manage the graphics area Toshiba has incorporated an ATI Graphics Controller with 2 MB of internal video memory. The screen is probable one of the brightest one I've seen.

Announced at the same time that the e400 this Pocket PC is a little bigger that its sibling, incorporating more CPU power, memory and even wi-fi.

The Toshiba e800 comes in a dark plastic case with a silky finish, very smooth to touch. It's very good to hold, thanks to non-polished plastic sides. It's bigger than other Pocket PCs, making the h4150 look very small when side by side. But it certainly appeals to users who want more of the screen and big memory. At 13.5cm x 7.60cm x 1.5cm (LxWxH) and 193g it may not be a Pocket PC you'll carry in your pocket.

This Pocket PC runs on an Intel PXA263 @ 400MHz, including 128MB RAM, 32MB ROM and 32MB NAND memory available to user as a Flash disk. Users can select a CPU speed setting (400MHz, 200MHz, 100MHz and Power Save) through an applet in Settings. With all this memory users will be happy to be able to synchronise large MS Excel or MS Word documents, eBooks and Adobe Acrobat files. And with the help of the VGA resolution more of these large files can be on the screen at the same time.

Toshiba is also offering an external VGA connector with an optional Presentation Pack, capable of showing up to 800 x 600 pixels screens. This Presentation pack also includes a USB host adapter, so users can actually use an external keyboard with this Pocket PC. There's also a Toshiba e805 model, which includes the ArcSoft PhotoBase software.

The e800 does not have Bluetooth, but it comes with SD IO Now! and a Compact Flash (CF II) slot, making it easy to add this and more memory - if 128MB RAM is not enough for your full length movie for instance.

The standard battery is a rechargeable and replaceable Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery (3.7V x 1320mAh) and there is an optional High Capacity Battery with 2640mAh.

You'll find in the bottom of this unit a plug for the charger, the hard reset swithc covered with a rubber cover and the wi-fi switch. The cradle has a round base, including a USB port for use when the Presentation Pack is connected. The cool feature is that it'll glow in blue when charging the e800 .

Back of the e800

Battery removed

Size comparison: e800 (left), HP h4150 (right). Note the screen at maximum brightness.

Cradle glowing in the dark

Toshiba included lots of interesting software on this release. There's a World Clock and even tools to help manage the wireless connections. The tools include a wi-fi troubleshoot program called Connectivity Doctor, a radar like tool to help you see the wireless access points around you called Search for Wireless, and a profile manager.

In its press releases Toshiba was touting this Pocket PC as made for VoIp. Actually it just happens that it has wi-fi, and comes with a bundled software. The software allows peer-to-peer communication, a free buddy list messaging and a subscription service.

Wireless tools (left) and Connectivity Doctor (right)

How does it perform on a benchmark against other machines? I've used Spb Benchmark to collect performance information, and if you click in the chart you can have access to our Performance Centre, with other Pocket PC reviews and charts:

Performance comparison

Like the Toshiba e400 this Pocket PC also comes with a suite of Speech recognition and Text-to-speech software. This includes software that will read your e-mail and act on your voice commands. You can even create new templates and have them inserted in your text or e-mail with a command.

The most important feature is certainly the screen with high resolution. When using the QVGA resolution the fonts look a little jagged, unless you turn on ClearType (through Settings | Display). When using VGA the fonts are very small, but well defined. Remember that the display has to accomodate twice as much information in the same area.

Users can switch resolution by using a program called Screen resolution, requiring a a soft reset (automatic). Using the e800 in VGA is strange at first. The fonts on screen are very clear, but small. You'll get used to it, but you have to see then to understand. Also, since not all applications will work properly in this high resolution, Toshiba limits the number of applications you can use. The VGA mode will start in a special Home application where only applications compatible with this mode will be shown. At first you'll see only ClearVue suite of applications, including Document, Image, Presentation and Worksheet. These are viewers only, so you can't actually do any editing when in VGA. When installing an application the system will determine if it conforms to the VGA standard and add its icon to this home application.

One example of application that runs on VGA is the web browser Access Netfront 3.1 for Toshiba e800. This version was specially created for this device and works perfectly. Access arranged a copy of this software so we could test it on this Pocket PC. One of the best features of this browser is the full screen mode, and on this e800 it's great.

Of course users will want to take advantage of this big screen for other applications too, but you can't invoke them from here. To solve this problem a user from the Brighthand forums, DEEZ, has created an eVB application called Resolution Swapper. This application will replace some dll files in this Pocket PC and allow the user to switch resolution but without invoking the modified Home application. Instead you'll see the standard Today screen. From here users can access all applications on this Pocket PC. Note that not all of them will correctly fit the higher resolution screen though.

In addition to the usual input method there's another one, called Large Keyboard. This show the normal keyboard, but with bigger virtual keys, to work on the VGA resolution. Interesting enough it looks like Toshiba hasn't finished the software yet, because the Options button shows a debug dialog .

Will you use this Pocket PC? This is a machine that will attract busines users, the ones who need to see lots of information on the screen at the same time. It'll not be in your pocket, but most of the times on a briefcase. With the Presentation Pack and external keyboard it can even replace laptops for the simpler tasks. It's worth a look if you think that your profile meets this criteria.

Toshiba Screen Resolution program

DEEZ Resolution Swapper program

Today screen (VGA)

Access Netfront 3.1 in QVGA: normal (left), full screen (right)

Access Netfront 3.1 in VGA: normal (left), full screen (right)

eBook reading: QVGA (left) and VGA (right). Lucky we can resize the fonts.

Making lots of points in Jawbreaker: QVGA (left) and VGA (right)

Pocket Excel VGA: QVGA (left) and VGA (right)

Applications that do fit well in VGA: New Contact (left) and Calendar full month view (right)

Applications that do not fit well in VGA: New Appointment (left) and Windows Media Player (right)

Ooops. Need to finish this one?

Screen in VGA (left) and QVGA (right)

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